Mike Smith: Parting words

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Mike Smith: Parting words

Mon, 04/10/2017 - 5:21am -- tim

by Mike Smith This will be my last column for the Rutland Herald and Times Argus. I am not giving up on writing a weekly column, just changing venues, but this column is neither the time nor the place to talk about that. Instead, I want to write about how grateful I am to those that gave me the opportunity to write for two newspapers that are rich in tradition and talent. Also, I want to express my thanks to the readers of my column.

For more than two years, it has been a privilege to write a column each week that appears in the Rutland Herald and Times Argus. What has been particularly inspiring to me is the opportunity to work with many great people who are dedicated to excellent journalism. However, I must single out both David Moats and Steven Pappas, who were so helpful with hints and edits to make my column better. They are both talented writers, dedicated to quality journalism and generous with their time. Reading what they write, and how elegantly and powerfully they write it, motivates me to be a better writer. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to work with them and get to know them. I owe them much.

The Rutland Herald and Times Argus are two newspapers with a storied tradition, and to be part of that tradition, even for a sliver of time, has been an honor. Some who have worked at these two newspapers have gone on to be prominent journalists at national publications. In addition, political cartoonist Jeff Danziger started his career with the Rutland Herald in 1975. And in 2001, David Moats won the Pulitzer Prize “for his even-handed and influential series of editorials commenting on the divisive issues arising from civil unions for same-sex couples.” But what has been most satisfying when writing for these two newspapers is the ability to connect with all of you, the readers. Over the last few years, I have heard from many of you. I thank you for your notes of encouragement, as well as your criticism.

Each week as I sat down to write the column I had several goals. First, I tried to avoid catering to the political extremes. Often, nowadays, the best way to attract an audience is to gravitate to either the far political left or the far political right, with the objective of constantly bashing the other side while ignoring the shortcomings of the side you wish to protect. Instead, I tried to be nonpartisan in my criticism.

For example, I was as harsh on Phil Scott for refusing to debate Sue Minter one on one, as I was in criticizing Pat Leahy for dodging debates with Scott Milne during the last election. In addition, I have been brutally honest about the frailties of Donald Trump — even criticizing Republicans for not chastising him — while also providing an honest assessment of the shortfalls of Hillary Clinton. Often I will write a column with the intent of exposing inconsistencies with what people say and what they are actually doing.

My second goal was to focus many of my columns on public policy with the hope of making complicated issues, such as health care policy, less complicated — or at least more understandable. I tried to shine a spotlight on those instances when government tried to hide information from us.

And the third goal was to focus on our interactions with one another. Some of the most impactful columns, at least from my perspective — and where I received the most feedback from readers — were ones that focused on our failures. These were instances where we sometimes prejudge each other; or, those situations when we set out to destroy a person with words or labels; or the discovery that Vermont isn’t immune to scandal. And in discussions about death, you told me personal stories about lives being cut short because of addiction or war. The focus of my future writings will undoubtedly encompass many of the same goals as my columns in the Rutland Herald and Times Argus.

In life, you never know if you are making the right decision when you leave one place and move elsewhere, especially when you feel so comfortable where you are and enjoy those that surround you. Making a decision always carries with it the risk that you may make the wrong decision. But to avoid risk is to minimize experiences, and it is through these new experiences that we discover so much more about ourselves.

With any column, once you submit it, you always think of other things you want to say. But I want to make sure that I say this to those working at the Rutland Herald and Times Argus as well as the readers of those two newspapers: thank you. I have enjoyed every minute of our journey and the discoveries that we have experienced together.

Mike Smith is the host of the radio program, “Open Mike with Mike Smith,” on WDEV 550 AM and 96.1, 96.5, 98.3 and 101.9 FM. He is also a political analyst for WCAX-TV and WVMT radio and is a regular contributor to the Times Argus and Rutland Herald, and Vermont Business Magazine. He was the secretary of administration and secretary of human services under former Gov. Jim Douglas. Mike Smith's column is re-published on vermontbiz.com on Monday mornings. Mike is on vacation for the rest of April and his column will return May 8.